Fantasy Football: Examining team running back usage and tendencies for 2024

2TDHN57 New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) runs before an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

Zamir White continues to be one of the big winners of the offseason: With the Las Vegas Raiders not bringing in significant competition for touches, there is plenty of volume on the table for White to take hold of in 2024.

Saquon Barkley will be relied on to handle the load out of the backfield but that volume disappears in the red zone: Thanks to Jalen Hurts’ rushing ability and usage near the goal line, Barkley’s overall opportunities to score may be limited this season.

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Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes

The 300-plus carry running back is rare in the modern NFL, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still workhorse roles available in certain offenses. Diving into the data from the previous year's play-calling tendencies, this piece is designed to help fantasy managers get a clearer picture of how each team may deploy their running backs, specifically, their top running back in order to separate the potential workhorses from those in more of a committee. 

A few notes about this data set:

  • Data is pulled from the currently expected play-caller of each team’s most recent sample in that same/similar role (i.e. Klint Kubiak’s 2021 season).
  • For those who do not have a history of offensive play-calling in the NFL, data will be pulled from their most recent coaching tree (i.e. Shane Waldron in Chicago).
  • Only running back carries are accounted for, leaving out quarterback and wide receiver rushing attempts.
  • RB1 and RB2 are meant to highlight what the top running backs on each team averaged in carries per week and are not assigned to one specific player, just the back with the most carries each week.
  • The focus here will only be on rushing touches and not factor in receiving roles.
  • Percentages are based on team rushing opportunities so quarterback and other non-RB carries will be factored in.
  • These are not concrete projections. Due to this being based on each play-caller's most recent usage, there should be some expectation that offenses will change and evolve. It is only meant as a starting point based on past tendencies.

Tier 1: Best bets for optimal RB1 carry volume

TEAM RB1 % RB2% Lead RB RZ %
New Orleans Saints 82.6% 16.2% 75.0%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 79.4% 16.3% 70.5%
Las Vegas Raiders 79.3% 8.6% 76.9%
Philadelphia Eagles 72.6% 23.2% 49.2%
  • The Saints hired Klint Kubiak to be the team’s offensive coordinator this season. Kubiak's previous stop as offensive coordinator occurred for the 2021 Minnesota Vikings, so the usage template is based on that team.
  • Alvin Kamara’s rushing production and efficiency have dropped off in recent years, so it should be expected that this RB1 usage will come down in 2024. It is still a good opportunity for touches and should remain consistent in the red zone as well.
  • The Raiders relied heavily on Josh Jacobs for most of the past few seasons but with Jacobs gone, it’s presumably Zamir White’s heavy workload to inherit. This is a great spot for White to thrive if these touches are even close to consistent, especially in the red zone.
  • Tampa Bay hired Liam Coen as its new offensive coordinator after previously serving as offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams in 2022. The 2022 Rams usage template is referenced here, and it is a positive change for Rachaad White should it remain consistent.
  • The Eagles, despite having a rushing quarterback, offer decent opportunity for new RB1 Saquon Barkley. Unfortunately, that running back opportunity in the red zone drops significantly with Jalen Hurts dominating those touches.

Tier 2: 65-70% of team carries is often the most fantasy managers can hope for from team RB1s

TEAM RB1 % RB2% Lead RB RZ %
Chicago Bears 68.5% 17.8% 77.9%
Seattle Seahawks 68.5% 17.8% 77.9%
Cincinnati Bengals 68.4% 11.2% 82.0%
Tennessee Titans 68.4% 11.2% 82.0%
Atlanta Falcons 66.3% 23.1% 80.1%
Indianapolis Colts 65.7% 19.3% 76.7%
  • Chicago and Seattle share usage templates here with Shane Waldron coming over from the Seahawks to be the new offensive coordinator of the Bears and with insufficient offensive play-calling data for Seattle’s new coaching staff Mike MacDonald and Ryan Grubb. 
  • Cincinnati and Tennessee also share usage templates with Brian Callahan coming over from the Bengals to be the new offensive coordinator for the Titans. Dan Pitcher takes over as the Bengals' new offensive coordinator after formerly serving as the team’s quarterback coach, so the same coaching tree template is used for Cincinnati.
  • Cincinnati and Tennessee’s RB1 usage are based on Joe Mixon last year, and if that holds true, it is positive usage for Zack Moss and Tony Pollard‘s usage.
  • Atlanta hired Raheem Morris and Zac Robinson from the Los Angeles Rams to run their offense in 2024. Last year's Rams’ usage is used as the template.
  • Atlanta’s new expected usage is much more favorable for Bijan Robinson than it was last season, up over 10% in expected team carry percentage and over 25% of team carries in the red zone, which may prove to be the biggest difference of all.

Tier 3: The typical average NFL running back opportunities

TEAM RB1 % RB2% Lead RB RZ %
Houston Texans 63.3% 18.0% 70.2%
Carolina Panthers 62.6% 18.1% 61.1%
Washington Commanders 61.7% 29.9% 61.8%
Minnesota Vikings 61.5% 21.6% 69.3%
Kansas City Chiefs 60.5% 13.5% 71.0%
New York Giants 59.9% 11.8% 72.3%
San Francisco 49ers 59.3% 16.5% 69.1%
Jacksonville Jaguars 59.1% 15.0% 70.0%
Green Bay Packers 58.4% 19.2% 62.4%
New England Patriots 57.4% 28.2% 79.7%
Detroit Lions 56.8% 31.2% 62.5%
New York Jets 56.2% 21.2% 77.5%
Pittsburgh Steelers 55.8% 35.4% 54.7%
Arizona Cardinals 54.6% 13.3% 52.7%
  • The Commanders' usage template is based on the 2022 Arizona Cardinals with Kliff Kingsbury coming in as the offensive coordinator. Considering the rushing threat that quarterback Jayden Daniels offers, those team running back carry percentages could decrease slightly even when compared with 2022 Kyler Murray.
  • New England was one of the most consistent teams in running back usage in the red zone last season. Whether that continues with Bill Belichick out of the picture remains to be seen.
  • Christian McCaffrey is undoubtedly a workhorse back in today’s NFL, but these numbers might not accurately depict his usage as he was often pulled in blow-out wins, and the team as a whole was the most run-heavy offense in the league last season, which increased his overall touches. San Francisco also utilized its wide receivers as runners – specifically, Deebo Samuel – more than any team in the league.
  • The Detroit Lions offered significant opportunity for the team’s RB2 last season, accounting for 31.2% of the team’s carries. That translated into the red zone as well with David Montgomery (64%) leading the way and Jahmyr Gibbs (46%) not too far behind.
  • Another team that offered significant opportunities for its RB2 was the 2023 Atlanta Falcons (35.4%), who are now being used as the template for the Steelers. Najee Harris (52%) and Jaylen Warren (31%) already shared carries in 2023 and that may not get any better under Arthur Smith in 2024.

Tier 4: Below-average RB1 usage

TEAM RB1 % RB2% Lead RB RZ %
Miami Dolphins 54.4% 24.8% 68.2%
Dallas Cowboys 54.2% 20.0% 61.1%
Los Angeles Rams 51.5% 27.3% 64.2%
Denver Broncos 51.1% 20.4% 56.2%
Buffalo Bills 46.1% 20.3% 38.9%
Cleveland Browns 43.7% 30.2% 61.4%
Baltimore Ravens 41.7% 22.0% 44.7%
Los Angeles Chargers 40.3% 20.7% 45.4%
  • With the Los Angeles Rams bringing in Mike LaFleur as offensive coordinator, there could be a shift in the team’s running back usage this season. LaFleur’s 2022 New York Jets are used as the template here and considering the team also drafted Blake Corum in the third round this offseason, even if the usage isn’t this poor for Kyren Williams, there should at least be a decline expected from his ideal situation in 2023 (see Atlanta Falcons above).
  • The Cleveland Browns are unlikely to be near the bottom again assuming Nick Chubb is healthy. With him out of the lineup for the majority of last season, the team deployed a shared workload amongst the running backs, though Chubb will almost certainly command more touches, again, assuming health.
  • The Baltimore Ravens should also see an uptick in RB1 usage with the team bringing in Derrick Henry this offseason. Henry’s greatest competition will be Lamar Jackson who accounted for 27% of the team’s total carries in 2023.
  • The Chargers hired Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman to run the offense this season so 2022 Ravens numbers are used as the template. The Ravens were the most run-heavy team in the league in 2022, also thanks to Lamar Jackson. Team running back carry percentages should be expected to go up with Justin Herbert offering a limited rushing threat. Looking solely at the 2022 Ravens’ running back carry opportunities in 2022, RB1 was at 61.2% while RB2 was relatively high at 32.2%.

Team overall and red zone run rate

Lastly, here is how each team’s referenced data shakes out when looking at what their tendencies were in terms of overall run rate and run rate once inside the redzone.

Team Overall Run Rate Red Zone Run Rate
San Francisco 49ers 45.9% 50.8%
Los Angeles Chargers** 45.4% 49.1%
Pittsburgh Steelers** 44.7% 56.2%
Baltimore Ravens 43.7% 54.7%
Detroit Lions 43.2% 55.5%
Atlanta Falcons** 41.4% 48.6%
Miami Dolphins 41.4% 52.5%
Buffalo Bills 41.4% 51.6%
Indianapolis Colts 41.2% 52.9%
Cleveland Browns 41.1% 47.6%
Arizona Cardinals 40.5% 46.9%
Denver Broncos 40.3% 46.0%
Las Vegas Raiders 39.7% 44.4%
Green Bay Packers 39.6% 46.3%
New Orleans Saints** 39.3% 49.1%
Carolina Panthers 38.8% 43.1%
Dallas Cowboys 38.7% 43.6%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38.6% 40.5%
Houston Texans 38.6% 46.5%
New England Patriots 38.5% 50.0%
New York Giants 36.5% 51.3%
Jacksonville Jaguars 36.2% 44.6%
Chicago Bears** 35.8% 45.6%
Seattle Seahawks 35.8% 45.6%
Los Angeles Rams** 35.8% 43.9%
Philadelphia Eagles 34.9% 60.5%
Washington Commanders** 34.0% 46.5%
New York Jets 33.8% 35.4%
Cincinnati Bengals 33.7% 43.2%
Tennessee Titans** 33.7% 43.2%
Minnesota Vikings 33.6% 31.3%
Kansas City Chiefs 33.3% 37.9%

** = Using different team data than 2023 due to new coaching staff


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